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Always lick your hands

Most of the artificial sweeteners already on the market are the result of pure dumb luck.

The oldest was discovered by accident when Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist working on coal tar products in Baltimore, forgot to wash his hands before supper and noticed that his bread tasted “unspeakably sweet.” He thought nothing of it until he noticed the same sweetness on his napkin, his water glass, and, eventually, his thumb. Fascinated, Fahlberg dashed back to the lab and started tasting everything he could find. Fortunately, he found the sweet compound, which we now know as saccharin, before he got to anything too toxic.

Cyclamate has much the same story: in 1937, a chemist at the University Illinois set his cigarette down on the corner of his lab bench and noticed when he picked it up again that it tasted sweet.

Aspartame: a chemist working on anti-ulcer drugs in 1965 licked his finger to help pick up a piece of paper and noticed a sweet taste.

Sucralose: a chemist in London was asked by his boss in 1976 to “test” a new chemical, but misheard it as “taste” – a potentially lethal error for a chemist, but one that worked out well for the company.

Bob Holmes – Flavour: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense

The moral of the story is clear.

via the interesting Ethan Mollick

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